Hoboken University Medical Center CEO Spiros Hatiras has come through on his one of the first promises he made after he took over the only taxpayer-owned hospital in New Jersey last summer.
When an audit revealed that Hoboken’s failing hospital had been underreporting losses, he owned up to the numbers and vowed to cut the $17.9 million loss from 2008 in half in 2009.
He came through; the hospital reported a loss of only $8.7 million last year, a 51 percent decrease, according to acting CFO Vinny Riccitelli.
And HUMC is reporting a $3.6 million surplus for 2010, a forecasted improvement from Hatiras’ promise of break-even. The surplus (before non-cash depreciation of assets is taken into account) is just a projection and will only materialize incrementally through the year, but the hospital is willing to use some of it during the fiscal year for immediate capital improvements, like fixing elevators.
The board had not been receiving mandated reports from the hospital management firm.
A draft of the 2010 hospital budget was submitted to the nine-member hospital board last week. The board allowed copies of the draft budget to be made public, but they were not available by press time Friday.
To the hospital employees in the audience on Wednesday, Hatiras repeated his claim in response to Gov. Chris Christie’s recent transition team report stating that the hospital will close “in few months.”
“I want to state unequivocally and clearly,” Hatiras said. “We are not closing.”
He said the claim was a distraction last week to the employees who had just agreed to pay cuts and who had to spend their time handling “damage control.” He even took the time to meet with expectant mothers who are scheduled to give birth at HUMC to assure them too.
The transition team assembled the report in short time and presented it before hospital workers agreed to multi-million dollar labor concessions, he said, but, “Am I happy that that perception [that the hospital is closing] found its way unfiltered to a report? No.”
Nonetheless, he said the remainder of the report did succeed at “identifying core issues” that hospitals face.
As far as HUMC’s recent award of $7 million in state hospital stabilization funding, Hatiras said a spokesperson for outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine stood behind the allocation.
“Let the issue prove itself over the next few months,” he said.
New board wants reports
Although none of the previous board members had complained publically, the board had not been receiving mandated reports from the hospital management firm, Hudson Healthcare, according to Andrew Aronson, an attorney for the Municipal Hospital Board. Hatiras took over the non-profit management firm last year from outgoing CEO Harvey Holtzberg.
Hatiras promised the reports to the new board going forward. Mayor Dawn Zimmer has appointed four new members in the past few months. Toni Tomarazzo, one of the new appointees, requested a timeline and list for the reports at the meeting last week.
Board Chairman Kevin Kramer announced the creation of two new committees at the meeting. One committee will review long-term strategic planning for the hospital; the other committee will oversee audit and compliance procedures.
Another newcomer, Tajil Desai, was appointed chairperson of the Finance Committee and board treasurer.
The board approved a $105,000 contract for their auditor, who unlike years past will also be auditing the management company. The cost to audit the management side has not been accounted for yet.
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.